One night on the stag all of The Unchained had gathered on The Stag. Stilicho was showing off the changes to the Captain’s Quarters. They were being remodeled in to quarters for the Unchained and the Wardroom. We were all sitting around drinking and laughing. Urgral and Dagmar were drinking from a bottle of foul smelling liquid. I sat with Dremnin and Stilicho on a stack of planks, we all filled our mugs from the same small keg of ale. Suulin had a bottle of fine wine that she had brought with her from her new inn, The Tippling T’skrang. Vridich even smiled and raised a glass of an unknown dark liquid as we talked about our recent successes.
The conversation turned to the Idea of bonding the group. We had talked of it before. This time there was seriousness to the discussion. We decided we would bond our group at the end of the two months were to spend in Barter Town.
Dremnin brought up that it was too bad that Luck had not made it out of the fight with the troll on the mountain top. Everyone else including Fafnir had made it back to civilization. We drank some more and talked about our stories. Fafnir kept coming up. He had saved us with the information that he had given us about the trolls after we were captured. He helped us to figure out that we had been pulled in to the pocket realm of a horror and how to get out. He had paved the way for us to getting on the good side of the king. We laughed about his terrible attempts in combat but he had always tried. Vridich recommended that we do something to say thanks.
I said that we would have to make a test cast to make sure that the cast was going to work. We could alter it just a little and give it to him for a gift. The rest of the group like the idea, so I said I would take care of it.
When I was at the forge making that test I told the smith what we wanted to do. He did the base casting in bronze and trimmed it out in silver. At the top it said “Honored Friend of the Unchained”. In the link that was left blank for Luck, “Fafnir” was carved. All of the words were inlaid with silver. It looked great.
The night before we left for the “The Reach” all of The Unchained was gathered in the finished wardroom. We sat in soft leather covered chairs this time. Stilicho stood behind the bar smiling at the moment. Fafnir was sitting at the main table with a pile of books. He was already copying some of our new books. I had placed the pin in a book and walked over to the table and sat down across from Fafnir. I handed him the book and said there is something I do not understand about the marked page. Fafnir acted a little put out that I had disturbed him. He took the book and started to tell me that he had put the reference books over on that shelf, that I should try to look up what I do not understand first that I would remember it if I did the work.
He flipped the book open and the pin lay there on the page. His eyes widened and he just looked at it. All of the Unchained had moved closer wanting to see. Fafnir looked back and forth between all of the faces of his friends.
“My dear friends, I am quite surprised. I wouldn’t say speechless, as I am never at a loss for words. But the right ones…” Fafnir trailed off for a moment as several emotions passed across his face.
“For as long as the Library has accepted me as a scholar, I had labored alone. Every theory regarded with disdain, every discovery scrutinized with suspicion. When you found me in the mines, I had resolved not to return to Throal without the Book. My very reputation was on the line, and I had walked miserable roads in my self-imposed exile so as not to face the kind of censure that only the learned can experience when exposed to the criticisms of his academic peers and betters. Worse… their willful disregard.”
“I might have died in that warren of despair. And then something happened. Six former slaves fought their destiny. They re-forged themselves in the furnace of adversity. They brought the Book back to its home. And found in their hearts to trust an old Dwarf with a single purpose in his heart. That trust was hard-earned on both sides. I, for one, had never experienced camaraderie such as this. And we weathered much – the forgotten kaer of Derinkuyu, the netherworld of a powerful Horror, the loss of a brother in the Battle of the Peaks, capture and enslavement yet again! The Theran raid on the Reach, the Battle for Thera’s Pride, and our glorious return to Throal!”
Fafnir paused and looked around at Suulin lounging in a chair by the door sipping from a delicate wine glass, across to Stilicho standing at parade rest with one hand on the new table in the wardroom, next to Dremnin bent over his mandolin with his fingers silently picking out a new tune he was working even as he focused on Fafnir, on to Urgral flexing his forearm muscles making new tattoos dance on his corded arms, over to Vridich whose eyes were slightly unfocused while regarding his companions, past Dagmar who was pouring Urgral more foul brew from a pitcher and back to Skram grinning in amusement. He launched back into his observations.
“And then you sailed on your way to the next adventure. I settled into what I do best – sorting data, expanding accepted research with my own experiences, working toward the thesis I always knew lay in wait for me. And I tackled it in a way that only a Traveled Scholar can – I rarely slept or ate until I had written and re-written my work until it was ready. My book, “Throal’s Precarious Pattern” was criticized in the extreme in an extremely short period of time. What surprised me most was the debate it stirred. We Dwarfs of Throal enjoy debate thoroughly, and I defended my theories as Stilicho would muster a shield wall to defend life and limb. For me, this was more than life and limb. This was reputation. I lectured almost daily on Throal’s delicate political state, and how the magical threads that bound some of her greatest treasures played into that destiny. And I was accepted."
“Out there in the world somewhere, I knew the Unchained would be joining battle with Horrors and Therans alike, for you…” Here Fafnir gestured broadly, encompassing everyone in the room, "…are flesh and bone made legend. And when I looked at my peers whose esteem I’d just earned more bitterly than the trust of six, now seven, heroic name givers, I realized the path I walked did not lead to the destination I sought. The scholars and politicians can debate the meaning and veracity of my work without me. The real work of strengthening Throal’s destiny lies here, with you. And whether I simply document it for posterity’s sake, or perhaps can provide some useful knowledge to aid in your quests, I do so of my free will.’ Here he looked intently at Dagmar. “What the Unchained builds here and now is the future of this province. You each lay the foundation with your own tools guided by your Talents and your will. Let me help you shape the design.” For a moment, a strange fervor took him. It was but a moment, and he was quickly the wry old Dwarf the Unchained had come to know.
“Thank you for taking me back aboard, Captain. And thank all of you for this token of honest friendship. I had forgotten what that was like. It will be repaid. One day, the dust will settle and you will see the beauty of what you have created, and will understand.” With that, Fafnir held up the bronze emblem. Grinning, he said, “I especially like the pickaxe.”
Thane Ardor Zomay S’kram
6th Circle Tail Dancer
Questor of Flourannus